Oct 20, 2015: Three Dog Night’s Cory Wells—Obituary

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Cory Wells, co-founding vocalist for the hit-making rock band Three Dog Night, died unexpectedly on October 20, 2015, at his home in Dunkirk, New York. He was 74.

“It is with deep sadness and disbelief that I must report the passing of Cory Wells, my beloved band mate for over 45 years,” fellow vocalist Danny Hutton said in an obituary issued on the band’s website. “Cory was an incredible singer – a great performer, he could sing anything.”

The cause of death was complications due to multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. A month earlier, the band had postponed several shows due to Wells developing severe back pain. Up until then, he had been performing regularly. Three Dog Night’s keyboardist, Jimmy Greenspoon, died of cancer on March 11 of the same year.

Wells, Hutton and Chuck Negron first met in 1967 and performed together under the moniker Redwood. In 1968, they ditched the name, hired a group of backing musicians and formed Three Dog Night, developing a signature gospel-inspired style in which the three vocalists sang harmonies and traded lead singing duties. They became best known for introducing audiences to mostly undiscovered (at the time) songwriters like Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, Elton John, Laura Nyro, Paul Williams and Hoyt Axton.

Related: Our feature story on Three Dog Night, the ultimate “cover band”

Three Dog Night scored their first #1 hit covering Randy Newman’s “Mama Told Me (Not to Come),” and kept the chart-toppers coming until they disbanded in 1976, earning a total of 21 Top 40 hits between 1969 and 1975. They reunited in 1981 and have been touring and recording ever since. (Tickets are available here and here.)

Related: Links to 100s of classic rock tours

In addition to singing “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” Wells also contributed lead vocals to hits like “Never Been to Spain” and “Shambala.”

Wells was born February 5, 1941, in Buffalo, NY. He was survived by his wife of 50 years, Mary, two daughters and five grandchildren.

Best Classic Bands Staff

6 Comments so far

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  1. Celya723
    #1 Celya723 21 October, 2019, 01:19

    Once Chuck Negron was booted out of the band because of his drug use, he wasn’t ever allowed to return despite Cory trying to persuade Danny Hutton to let him back in the band. Chuck had been touring as “The Voice of Three Dog Night ” and is now singing as “Formerly of Three Dog Night”, but he’s not been part of the original band for decades.

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    • Dan
      Dan 21 October, 2019, 12:38

      That’s good knowledge

      Reply this comment
    • tabes
      tabes 21 October, 2019, 19:33

      Danny should reconsider now. Harmonies not the same now w Corey. The remaining 2 should work it out, if for no other reason that they can get more $

      Reply this comment
      • Beachbabe
        Beachbabe 4 March, 2020, 17:06

        Cory Wells was the backbone of this band. His soulful voice and delivery of a song was a rare gift.

        Reply this comment
  2. Uirish
    #2 Uirish 22 October, 2020, 08:37

    How are they NOT in the RR HOF??????

    Reply this comment
  3. 122intheshade
    #3 122intheshade 22 October, 2023, 01:21

    American Top 40 fans will forever hold “Mama Told Me Not To Come” in their hearts as the number one song on the first show. July 4, 1970.

    It also goes to show that not only do you need a great song to have a hit, you need the right people performing and producing it.

    Eric Burdon did the song years earlier. But he sounds like he’s not sure what to do with it.

    Reply this comment

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